After US destroyer collision, Chinese paper says US navy a hazard

The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain arrives at Changi Naval Base in Singapore August 21, 2017.
Reuters
BEIJING, Aug 22 - The US navy's latest collision at sea, the fourth in its Pacific fleet this year, shows it is becoming an increasing risk to shipping in Asia despite its claims of helping to protect freedom of navigation, an official Chinese newspaper said. The USS John S. McCain and the tanker Alnic MC collided while the guided-missile vessel was nearing Singapore on Monday. The collision tore a hole in the warship's port side at the waterline, flooding compartments that included a crew sleeping area. Ten sailors are missing. The collision - the fourth major accident in the US Pacific fleet this year - prompted a fleet-wide investigation and plans for temporary halts in operations to focus on safety. The state-run China Daily said in an editorial on Tuesday that people will wonder why such a sophisticated navy keeps having these problems. "The investigations into the latest collision will take time to reach their conclusions, but there is no denying the fact that the increased activities by US warships in Asia-Pacific since Washington initiated its rebalancing to the region are making them a growing risk to commercial shipping," it said. China has been upset at US freedom of navigation operations near Chinese controlled islands in the disputed South China Sea, where China has been reclaiming land, building air bases and increasing its military presence. "While the US Navy is becoming a dangerous obstacle in Asian waters, China has been making joint efforts with the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to draw up a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea and it has boosted navigational safety by constructing five lighthouses on its islands," the China Daily said. "Anyone should be able to tell who is to blame for militarising the waters and posing a threat to navigation." READ ALSO: US warship collision exposes Singapore-Malaysia sea dispute

AMMB, RHB suspend trading of shares as merger decision looms

AMMB group chief executive officer Datuk Sulaiman Tahir
AmBank Facebook Page
AMMB Holdings Bhd and RHB Bank Bhd have requested for the trading of their shares to be suspended as of 9 am this morning, The Star has reported. With the outcome of their current talks of a merger due to be announced by late August or early September, the move to suspend trading likely portends an impending decision will soon be made. As reported by the New Straits Times, the current discussion remains exclusive between the two banks. However, after the Aug 30 deadline, AMMB and RHB will be allowed to continue the discussion with other interested parties. Currently, RHB is the fourth-largest lender in the country, while AMMB is the sixth. If the merger were to take place, AMMB and RHB will become the fourth largest bank and the largest fund manager in Malaysia. According to The Star, the merger is deemed to be beneficial to both parties, giving both banks larger economies of scale. AMMB group chief executive officer Datuk Sulaiman Tahir is quoted saying: "If the merger were to take place; it will enable us to stand on par with the two banking groups in the country which are Maybank Group and CIMB Group." "What we are bringing to the table to for this merger is our existing strength in Malaysia, while RHB is bringing their existing regional reach which we currently don't have."  

What's Happening

Chinese developer Country Garden posts record 6-month net profit

HONG KONG, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd , China's top property developer by sales, reported a record high six-month net profit as business in smaller cities continued to boom. Government curbs to rein in property prices in China have weighed on larger cities, with July showing the slowest growth in home prices since August 2016, although business in smaller centres have remained robust. Country Garden, which focuses on smaller cities, said its net profit rose 39.2 per cent from a year ago to 7.5 billion yuan over the six months to June, highest ever half-yearly earnings. The company also saw it core profit, which excludes revaluation gains, jump 35 per cent to 7.2 billion yuan. Its revenue for the period rose 35.5 per cent to 77.7 billion yuan and it said it expects further growth in the future given a number of pre-sold but unrecognised projects. Country Garden, which has an internal target to double sales this year to 600 billion yuan, posted 288.9 billion yuan sales for the first six months, more than double year-ago levels. This helped the company climb two notches to the top developer spot. It did not give details on how much sales came from its $100-billion mega development in Malaysia, Forest City, but said "the project has been well received by overseas enterprises and investors". The company has largely halted promoting the project to mainland buyers since earlier this year in response to Beijing's moves to stop capital flight into offshore investments. A Country Garden executive recently told Reuters the company would struggle to match 2016 home sales this year at Forest City, despite greater marketing outside the mainland. Forest City accounted for 6 per cent of the group's contracted sales last year. Among other Chinese developers, Guangzhou R&F Properties has reported a 22 per cent rise in its first-half core profit to 2.1 billion yuan, while Soho China saw a 565 per cent jump in net profit to 3.98 billion yuan due to higher valuation gains on investment properties.  

Abdul Murad implies Anwar knew about forex losses but kept quiet to avoid losing job

Former Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) assistant governor,  Datuk Abdul Murad Khalid has alleged that former Malaysian finance minister Anwar Ibrahim was told the truth about forex losses made during a scandal in 1994, and commented that he could lose his job over it. Abdul Murad told The Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on Monday (Aug 21) that Anwar had asked him to join him on his flight to Hawaii "to provide an explanation on the forex losses, as instructed by then BNM Governor Tan Sri Jaffar Hussin," The Star reported. “After my explanation, Anwar also made a remark that if indeed the actual losses of the BNM forex (issue) were made public he, as finance minister, would have to step down,” he reportedly said in his testimony. When the scandal broke in the 1990s, the foreign exchange losses were estimated to be around RM9 billion. But in January this year, Abdul Murad claimed that it was closer to US$10 billion. Murad also testified that he had informed Tan Sri Jaffar Hussein on the matter in 1992 but was "scolded" as the then-governor did not believe him. “The governor did not believe me, scolded me and told me to discuss it with (Banking Department manager and advisor) Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop," he said. Yesterday, RCI also revealed that approximately RM31.5 billion in forex trades was lost between 1991 and 1994, New Straits Times reported. RCI chairman Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan, was quoted by NST as saying:“We have made the finding today that BNM lost RM31.5 billion, and the figure was hidden from the Bank Negara reports." "We have to find out who asked for it to be concealed,” he added.

US warship collision exposes Singapore-Malaysia sea dispute

Kuala Lumpur - A collision between a US warship and an oil tanker near the Straits of Malacca on Monday has shone a light on a territorial dispute that has simmered between neighbours Singapore and Malaysia for nearly 40 years. The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with merchant vessel Alnic MC to the east of Singapore, while heading to the city-state for a routine port call. Ten US sailors are missing and five were injured in the collision, which resulted in significant damage to the hull of the US vessel and the flooding of some of its compartments. Singapore and Malaysia both said the incident took place in their territorial waters, as the warship and oil tanker collided near the rocky outcrop of Pedra Branca, an area that has long been contested by both countries. Both countries said they were leading the search and rescue operation for the missing sailors. Singapore was once part of Malaysia but they separated acrimoniously in 1965, clouding diplomatic and economic dealings for years. The International Court of Justice ruled in 2008 that Pedra Branca, which means "white rock" in Portuguese, belonged to Singapore and a nearby feature called Middle Rocks belonged to Malaysia. Malaysia sought a review of the ruling this year, reopening the dispute. The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said it was notified just before dawn of the collision in "Singapore territorial waters" in the Singapore Strait, and Singapore was leading the search and rescue operations. Malaysia insisted that the incident happened in its waters, just miles off its southern state of Johor. Malaysia's navy chief, Admiral Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin, told Reuters the KD Handalan was the first to respond to the distress call from the US ship. "KD Handalan was just three miles from the USS McCain when it first received the distress call," he said. Malaysia's Maritime Enforcement Agency Director General Zulkifili Abu Bakar told reporters Malaysia disputed Singapore's assertion that the accident happened in its waters. He said the Malaysian search and rescue operation was independent of Singapore's and Malaysia had not communicated with its neighbour about the incident. "What is important is, we do not want to have another collision between assets on the ground," Zulkifili said. "For the time being, we shouldn't be arguing about whose waters it is, the most important thing is to focus on search and rescue." The Malaysian navy assigned four vessels and a Super Lynx helicopter for the search and rescue, while the Malaysian armed forces and maritime authorities also deployed more assets. The Indonesian navy said it had deployed two warships. The US Navy said Singapore and US assets were involved in search and rescue. It said in a statement late on Monday that Malaysian navy vessels and a helicopter had joined the search in the afternoon and Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, thanked Malaysia for its "great support".

Osaka guesthouse, which slammed trio for defecation incident, lifts its ban on Malaysians

Screenshot of viral video of Malaysian youth assaulting home-stay employee
Bideo Thorbaek Youtube Channel
Hooliganism on the part of three Malaysian youth in a popular lodge in Osaka almost led to the banning of all Malaysians from the home-stay. However, following a multitude of comments from Malaysian netizens apologising for the behavior of the guests, the owner recanted the ban, saying: “I spoke to my partner about this issue and as Muslims we know we should not hold on to grudges against others," Free Malaysia Today reported. The three young men responsible for acts of vandalism, defecating in the shower, and threatening employees, were identified by New Straits Times as Ramadhan Sinclair, Hidayat Kamal and Ahmad Faris. A video showing them the verbally abusing and threatening to harm the lodge’s caretakers has since gone viral. When ordered to pay for the damages caused, they pressured the staff to fork out the 130,000 yen (RM 5,110) that was meant to be paid. “They forced my staff to lie to me and said that they were the ones who paid”, the owners was quoted as saying. Although appalled by their actions, Parent Action Group for Education founder Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim believes that the incident is an isolated one, and that not all Malaysians should be punished for the actions of the three. Meanwhile, Malaysian netizens who commented on the Facebook post not only apologised for the unacceptable behaviour the owners had to endure, but also complimented the great service provided by the lodge's staff. Taking into consideration the inconvenience that many of their guests who had already made reservations would have to endure, together with the public outcry in response to the unacceptable behavior, the owners decided not to go ahead with the ban. However, as there have been unpleasant encounters with other Malaysian guests in the past, the owners are growing weary, and future guests from Malaysia will be walking on thin ice. While the owners have called off the ban, they have asked for a public apology from the three Malaysians to their country for the poor behavior, and have also lodged a police report. The New Straits Times reported that to date, only one of the three has made an apology, while another took to making cynical remarks online, and refusing to take responsibility.

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Malaysia apologises to Indonesia over flag blunder at regional games

Kuala Lumpur/Jakarta - Malaysia has apologised to Indonesia over the upside down printing of the Indonesian flag in a souvenir guidebook handed out at the opening of the Southeast Asian Games. The mistake, spotted at the opening of the games in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, on Saturday sparked an outcry in Indonesia and the hashtag #ShameonyouMalaysia was trending on social media. Indonesian President Joko Widodo told reporters in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, the incident concerned "national pride", and had called for an apology. Indonesian Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi also expressed dismay, posting pictures of the mistake on his Twitter account. "It was a good opening ceremony but spoiled by this fatal negligence that was very painful," he said. His Malaysian counterpart, Khairy Jamaluddin, tweeted an apology. "There was no malice intended," Khairy said. Khairy was expected to meet Indonesia's delegation to formally apologise on Sunday. Indonesia's flag has two horizontal bands with red on the top and white underneath. Turning it upside down, makes it look like Poland's flag. The Malaysian Organising Committee also apologised saying it had been "an inadvertent error". The flag blunder was the latest in a series of embarrassing incidents at the regional sports meet. Last week, a bus driver ferrying the Myanmar women's football team was arrested on suspicion of stealing a watch and for not possessing a driver's license.

Shanghai Tang founder sends out party invites after being given 2 months to live: Report

Screengrab from BBC Hardtalk Youtube Channel
The billionaire founder of fashion label Shanghai Tang is throwing a party for his friends after being told that he has only "a month or two to last", The Asia Times has reported. According to the report, doctors had told 63-year-old Sir David Tang that he would have just a couple of months left to live, but instead of getting sufficient rest, Tang decided to welcome death by sending out invitations for a final farewell party. In the peculiar party invitation sent to his friends, Tang promised to throw a great party, writing: “As I have been given by my politburo of medical experts just a month or two to last, I thought the best way to go would be to give a party where we can see each other at least one time more, rather than at a memorial service where I shall be dead as a dodo.” The flamboyant businessman, socialite and cigar connoisseur, is the grandson of Tang Shiu Kin, one of Hong Kong’s most famous philanthropists. Tang is best known for his contribution to Shanghai Tang - making it one of the first Chinese labels to break the global boundary. Being a recipient of knighthood in 2008, Tang has had the privilege of dancing with Queen Elizabeth. He is friends with celebrities like Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, and was also close friends with Princess Diana when she was alive. Through the years, the Hong Kong-born billionaire has managed to forge admirable relationships with foreigners interested in Eastern culture, through his shuttling between Hong Kong, London, and mainland China - further strengthening his personal brand name. In fact, his accomplishments are more than ample. With his weekly column in the Financial Times called “ Agony Uncle”, Tang shared his personal experiences with the world - including how the National Health Service (NHS) saved his life. The billionaire is also the man responsible for the distribution of all Cuban cigars in the Asia Pacific region, the starting up of The China Club brand in China, Hong Kong and Singapore, and the China Tang restaurant at the Dorchester Hotel. Hong Kong tabloid Apple Daily reported last week that when contacted, Tang declined to comment and did not deny or confirm the news.